How can Jurgen Klopp rebuild struggling Liverpool?
Liverpool’s Champions League defeat to Real Madrid has highlighted some well-known deficiencies – and some less evident – in Jurgen Klopp’s squad.
The 5-2 last-16, first-leg defeat was not only their heaviest in a home European match but was also notable for the lack of response to going behind and the absence of a threat up front, with an xG (expected goals) of just 0.07 for the second half.
Here are the steps that need to be taken as Klopp plans for his first major rebuild of his previously all-conquering side.
Liverpool have conceded three or more goals in five of their 13 matches since the World Cup, and eight occasions in total this season.
Three of the back four have not changed since Virgil van Dijk arrived in January 2018 as the Dutchman and full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have long been guaranteed starters.
Only the second centre-back slot has been genuinely open for competition and while Ibrahima Konate appears the first-choice he has made just 10 appearances this season due to injury.
Joel Matip is 32 in the summer when he will be entering the final year of his contract, while Joe Gomez, at 25, has been short of form and confidence for a long time after a string of serious injuries. At least one new face is required to freshen up the defence.
The area of the squad which is crying out for an upgrade. The contracts of Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner expire this season while Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara – the only senior midfielder bought since 2019 – will be 33 and 32 respectively by the time the next campaign starts.
Aurelien Tchouameni’s preference for Real last summer scuppered Liverpool’s rebuilding plan and it now seems all hopes are being pinned on Borussia Dortmund’s England international Jude Bellingham.
However, a couple more additions are required with Fabinho looking much older than his 29 years and seemingly unable to cover the ground as he once did. A younger, more vibrant profile of player is required if Klopp’s pressing game is to work effectively again.
Liverpool are set to head into the summer transfer window with a third sporting director in as many years with Julian Ward announcing his intention to leave after just a season as Michael Edwards’ replacement.
A large part of the club’s success over recent years has been their recruitment policy and while the decision to pursue potential, young talent over proven quality in the last couple of years may eventually pay off the next man in the job has to start uncovering those hidden gems who can make an instant impact again.
— John W. Henry (@John_W_Henry) June 2, 2019
With a significant transfer spend needed, although not necessarily guaranteed, in the summer the key factor will be just how much money there is to spend. Bellingham is likely to cost £100m alone and any further outlay would be expected to at least double that figure.
Liverpool struggle to compete with the funds available to Manchester City, Newcastle and Chelsea which is why owners Fenway Sports Group are looking for outside investment as opposed to a full sale.
With the club valued in the region of £4bn even a sell-off of a small percentage of shares would raise a considerable sum for a more-than-useful war chest.